Is our Faith a tangible, physical thing?

Is our Faith a tangible, physical thing? Fr Liam Lawton Photo: Nora Fealey

Religious TV shows aimed at a young audience are pretty rare, but last week I week I caught up with a few.

Life on the Rock (EWTN) has a more youthful feel than most of that channel’s output but the format needs to be more energised. It can be more than a bit staid but I did find last Saturday’s episode interesting.

A very young Bro. John interviewed a young parent to discuss digital evangelisation. Brian Holdsworth  has a YouTube channel of lively talks on Faith matters, and he explained how he came from a marketing background and was keen to put his skills at the service of the Church – there was an obvious connection between communication and evangelisation.

A Canadian, he reflected on how attendance at church and attention to Eucharist had changed during lockdown, and it sounded like the situation in his area was similar to Ireland. I wasn’t so sure about his concept of being “estranged” from his parish community during lockdown, but I could relate to the varying feelings of parishioners as they tentatively made their way back to Mass.

He was convinced that just watching online (where there could be fellowship) wasn’t enough, that our Catholic Faith was a tangible, physical, material thing, especially with the Eucharist. He was calm and positive though and not at all catastrophising.

More generally he thought our disposition towards the Eucharist was influenced by and indicative of our beliefs and attitudes. Considering surveys that showed a lot of Catholics not believing in the essentials of Eucharist he reckoned a “catechetical deficit” was part of the problem.

There was no deficit of respect or dignity in the Mass last Sunday on RTÉ One, marking the 30th anniversary of Youth 2000. Unfortunately Covid-19 meant a celebration less exuberant than it otherwise might have been, but the small congregation of young readers and musicians was very effective.

I was particularly imp-ressed by the music – clear, moving, competent, inspiring, with contemporary pieces from the likes of Liam Lawton, Dana, Robin Mark and more. Under the direction of Ruth Teren-Hogan it complemented the Mass as it always should.

One tweak I’d suggest for TV Masses is that during the Offertory, the camera should focus on what the priest is doing rather than on the musicians and singers – otherwise the music becomes more performance than enhancement.

The set design was also quite striking, with motifs from nature and art attractively blended.  I also enjoyed the homily of Fr Luuk Jansen OP, who spoke of his coming to Ireland from his native Netherlands. He hadn’t been baptised but his encounter with Youth 2000 was part of the process that drew him to the Catholic Faith and ultimately to priesthood.


Also on Sunday a new series, Stories of Us, started on BBC Two. Hosted by the ever-enthusiastic Rev. Kate Bottley (she’s everywhere!) it had a kind of vague spiritual focus with some reference to religious faith. I felt some of the parts were better than the whole as I thought some of the connections were somewhat tenuous.

It started from the premise that people were less likely to attend physical church buildings thanks to Covid-19 with an exploration of how people found spirituality or exercised their Faith in other contexts, yet it was obvious that the content was filmed before lockdown.

The show centred on  Rev. Kate’s enthusiasm for ‘wild water’ swimming which, she said, helped her connect with herself and with God. She enticed others to join her – I was touched by one woman who got quite emotional describing the loss of her Faith community. It felt like a real grief though it wasn’t clear why she and her family had stopped going to church, except that she felt they didn’t fit.

I was impressed by the project that saw knives taken off the street, melted down and turned into outdoor gym equipment (swords into ploughshares?). An anthropologist gave an interesting insight into the significance of water in religion and how before mirrors a still pool was the only way people could see themselves reflected.

Co-presenter Ashley John-Baptist, avowedly a person of religious faith, visited St Herbert’s Island in England’s Lake District with a modern day hermit. A thoroughgoing city boy he found it hard to cope with even an hour of isolation – but the edginess of this holy hour was partly because isolation had negative connotations from his own past. Fair enough.


Pick of the Week
Sunday Sequence
BBC Radio Ulster, Sunday, July 26, 8.30am

Topical religious and ethical issues with a Northern Ireland flavour.

Sunday Morning Live
BBC One, Sunday, July 26, 10am

Sally Phillips and Angellica Bell take a look at the week’s talking points and explore the ethical and religious issues of the day.

EWTN, Sunday, July 26, 8.30pm, also Monday, July 27, 7.30am and Tuesday, July 28, 2.30pm

The latest news from the Vatican with the Holy Father’s recent audiences, interviews and highlights of recent events.